The Great Gamble
Harper, Jan 2010, $15.99
Anyone who has followed the historians’ perspective on the Bush-Obama war in Afghanistan knows the mountainous country has been considered a graveyard for outsiders. Before the Americans, the Soviets became engulfed in a nine-year war there that many say was a much greater factor to the collapse of the Soviet Union than Reagan’s build-up; as it exposed the weaknesses of the rag-tag nature of the Red Army. Using predominantly interviews with Soviet veterans and translations of released Russian information, Gregory Feifer provides an intriguing look at why the Russians’ felt they lost and believe likewise the Americans will too. In some ways the anecdotal glimpse of the war is overwhelming as there is so much material from so many vets. Yet ironically this deep look from mostly the perspective of Russian war veterans lacks two critical interrelated elements in light of today’s debate over whether the United States can win in Afghanistan. First why the Soviets felt they could win a protracted war when they issued rations stamped 1942 and second why did the Afghanistan resistance believe they could defeat one of the world’s two superpowers. Still this is an interesting account of the Soviet war in Afghanistan worth reading over several weeks.